The Comprehensive Guide to Ace Google Featured Snippets in 2019
Want to ace Google featured snippet?
Wondering what is it? 🤔
This is a featured snippet:
While most bloggers, SEOs, and digital marketers continue to optimize their sites with technical SEO, improve the quality of their content, and build backlinks from every nook and corner of the internet, they frequently overlook what’s staring them right in the face: the opportunity to get into Position 0 – Google’s answer box or featured snippet, as we know it.
What is the featured snippet?
According to Google
When a user asks a question in Google Search, we might show a search result in a special featured snippet block at the top of the search results page. This featured snippet block includes a summary of the answer, extracted from a webpage, plus a link to the page, the page title and URL. It looks as shown in the screenshot above.
So why are featured snippets (Google’s rich answer box) so important, how can they bring you more traffic, and how do you get your pages to pop up in these results?
Let me and try and explain!
What You Need to Know About Featured Snippets
Let’s quickly run through a few facts about featured snippets. These will help you understand the importance of getting some for your site.
1. Around 13% of all Google queries return featured snippets at the top of the results.
2. About 97% of featured snippets answer users’ questions correctly (Source: Stone Temple).
3. You see four types of featured snippets in the SERPs:
- Paragraph (text)
- List (numbered or bulleted)
- Video (from YouTube)
4. Voice search borrows its answers almost exclusively from featured snippets. In fact, more than 85% of Paragraph snippets result in voice answers (Source: Moz).
5. Over 99% of featured snippets are awarded to URLs that already rank on page 1 of Google for the keyword in question. 31% of those rank #1.
6. Pages that rank #1 for a keyword and earn a featured snippet get 28% of all clicks (as opposed to 26% when there is no featured snippet). When another site appears in the featured snippet, the URL below at #1 gets only 19% of the clicks (Source: Ahrefs).
7. More than 85% of featured snippets are triggered by long-tail keywords that have a monthly search volume of less than 100.
8. Google shows multiple options within certain featured snippets, allowing you to refine your query to get a more specific answer.
9. Some queries also return multiple (I haven’t seen more than two) featured snippets.
How to Optimize For Featured Snippet Appearances
There are a few factors that will drastically increase your chances of getting featured snippets, everything else being constant. Here’s a no-nonsense checklist that gets right down to business.
1. Target keywords with questions. Queries that start with question words like “what” or “why” return a paragraph snippet more than 90% of the time. Overall, questions show a 480% increase in the percentage of keywords with featured snippets.
2. Content in the range of 40 to 50 words has the best chance of showing up in an answer box (in the case of paragraph snippets). For example, the snippet for “backlinks” shown at the start of the post is 51 words long.
3. Google tends to truncate lists with more than 8 items in the snippets, so create longer lists to entice users to click through to your site.
The same applies to tables too.
4. Use more visuals in your content. The top performers in a SEMrush study of featured snippets had an average of 12 images (with appropriate ALT text) in the content. While you’re at it, use landscape images with an aspect ratio of 4:3.
5. Try to turn pages already in the answer boxes into a “featured snippet hub,” i.e. those showing up in position 0 for more than 10 queries. This is more common and easier than you’d expect. I’ve seen quite a few pages get featured snippets for more than 2,000 keywords, so don’t hesitate to push the boundaries of what’s possible.
6. 83% of all sites with featured snippets run on HTTPS. If you’re still on HTTP, please stop what you’re doing and go move to HTTPS first.
8. Don’t try and hoard link juice. Pages that earn featured snippets for multiple queries tend to have 30 to 40 outgoing link citations in the content.
9. Make it simple for users to understand. Answers in featured snippets tend to have a Flesch-Kincaid readability level of 7th grade or less (a minimum score of 70/100). You can check the readability of your text with the Hemingway Editor:
10. Increase your site authority. Earn more links from trusted domains in your niche. Here’s more on how to increase your domain authority.
11. Implement schema markup on your page using JSON-LD (the format recommended by Google). Explicitly indicating ratings, headlines and descriptions in this way make Google’s job a lot easier. Schema Pro plugin is an idle solution for WordPress powered websites.
12. The top sites that get “featured” all have one thing in common – they provide loads of information. Create a resources section in your site that includes a lot of “how-to” guides and question-answers. At the very least, maintain an active blog.
13. Break up each section of your blog posts into headings and sub-headings. Use as many H1 to H6 tags as required to clarify the structure and hierarchy of your articles. Read about heading tags SEO here.
14. Implement semantic HTML correctly to explicitly clarify the structure of the page to Googlebot. It enables Google to understand the role of each section or part of the page and focus on the primary content of the page as opposed to navigational and subsidiary elements and meta information.
15. Maximize social shares and on-page engagement such as comments. These correlate with increased visibility in snippets. Remember, however, that correlation is not causation. Here are 3 strategies that you could follow.
How to Find More Opportunities for Featured Snippets (Answer box)
Let me walk you through a couple of ways to land featured snippets for the keywords you’re targeting.
Approach #1: Find low hanging fruits
You can probably do this with any rank tracking tool of your choice, but I’m just showing you a way to do it with SEMrush. (Disclosure: the author works at SEMrush.) Fire up the Organic Research tool within your SEO toolkit.
Put in your domain name to see an overview of your traffic, keywords, ranking positions, and competitors.
Go to the Positions tab and apply these two filters:
- Include rankings where you rank between 1 to 5.
- Exclude SERPs where you already appear in the featured snippets.
And voila! You get a list of all keywords for which you’re ranking well but don’t appear in the featured snippets. Note that this might be because there are no featured snippets at all in the results, but hey, then you try to induce them.
If there’s another site grabbing the featured snippet for a keyword you like, simply emulate what they’re doing and do it better (by borrowing a few tips from the checklist in the previous section). Usually, a few formatting tweaks will do the trick.
For quicker wins, you could add a further level of filtering by including only keywords that contain question words like “what” or “how to.”
Approach #2: Hijack competitors’ featured snippets
Instead of your site, just feed a competitor’s domain into the Organic Research tool. This time, select just one filter: Include SERP Features with “Featured snippet” in them. Bam! You get a list of all keywords for which your competitor has grabbed featured snippets.
You could go one step further. Export this list and compare it with the common keywords that the Keyword Gap tool returns, to get a better idea of how you’re faring in the SERPs against that particular site.
Approach #3: Start with a seed keyword
I assume most of you who have a working knowledge of SEO and blogging will be good at keyword research and building endless lists of primary and secondary keywords. Again, you can do this with a combination of your favorite keyword research / rank tracking / SERP scraping tools, but I’m showing you how it works with SEMrush Keyword Magic.
Just enter a seed keyword into the box, choose the match type (or related keywords), include or exclude any terms you want, and check the “Featured Snippet” option in the “SERP Features” filter.
Now you have a list of keywords for which featured snippets are already showing up in the SERPs. Are you ranking for any?
Let’s retrace a few steps. How do you choose your “seed keyword” well in the first place?
The Topic Research tool has you covered. It will help you find search terms relevant to your industry, including long-tail key phrases people are googling and article headlines that are currently trending, and group keyword phrases in the form of mind maps or topical index cards. This way you can make quick decisions on the areas you’ll focus on next with your content.
How to Get, Keep and Track Featured Snippets That You Want
Until now, we discussed what featured snippets are, how to improve our chances of popping up in a few, and how to identify keywords that we’d do well to target. But hey, this post is about acing featured snippets, isn’t it?
So let’s combine all this information and see if there’s a way to snatch Position 0 for the keywords that you want from your competitors and retain them.
Enter the SEMrush Position Tracking tool. In order to set it up, you need to add the keywords that you want into the tracker. (You do have the option of manual entry or sourcing them from SEMrush or Google Analytics.)
As an example, I chose 45 keywords for which ShoutMeLoud.com is doing well in the Google rankings. Once it’s done gathering data, you’ll see pretty much every piece of featured snippet-related data for your keywords in one place.
- Opportunities: keywords for which your domain doesn’t figure in the search results
- Already featured: keywords for which you currently have a featured snippet
- New: snippets that you didn’t feature in at the start of the selected period, but do now
- Lost: snippets that you had at the start of the selected period, but have lost since
- Estimated traffic potential: the amount of traffic you will gain if you succeed in getting into one of the snippets in the “opportunities” list
The opportunities are broken down into a detailed report:
All you need to do is analyze each of these one by one and go one up on them using the techniques outlined in the “How to Maximize Your Featured Snippet Appearances” section earlier in this post.
Simple? Yes. Easy? Nope.
It’s never easy being an ace.
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Over to You: Google SERP’s Featured Snippet
What you have now is a roadmap to try and get a featured snippet for as many of your top-10 keywords as possible. The road is long and winding. But you’ll get there eventually, if you follow these guidelines to optimize your site for Google answer box.
However, I don’t want you to stop there. Featured snippets is just one piece of SERP real estate that Google offers. Ideally you want a shack by the beach, a villa in the hills, and a penthouse in the city too. So keep looking around for ways to ace every SERP feature that crops up as Google search evolves.
For instance, right below the snippet for “backlinks” that we explored at the start of this post, you encounter another of Google’s gems – People also ask:
This is Google’s idea of clickbait – it has the potential to keep a searcher hooked on the same subject for a long time.
Wouldn’t you want to give them answers to all of these questions? And be a “featured snippet hub” in the process?
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